A Discussion with the Founder of SD Kitchens and former NKBA President.
by Elisa Fernández-Arias
Stu Dettelbach, CKBD, Founder of SD Kitchens and former NKBA President, has been part of the kitchen and bath industry for more than 50 years. In 1973, he designed and installed his first kitchen, and in 1979, he opened his first showroom. Dettelbach’s term as NKBA President was from 1994-1995.
NKBA recently sat with Dettelbach to discuss his career, the association, and what he sees ahead for the kitchen and bath industry.
Remembering His NKBA Presidency
When recalling his time at NKBA, Dettelbach fondly remembered many moments — so many, in fact, that it was impossible for him to think of just one favorite memory. However, he did say that the people he met during his tenure were an important part of his experience. “Traveling to many chapters, working with the local executive committees and speaking with chapter members was exciting,” he said. “I feel lucky to have been president of NKBA; it gave me an opportunity to make friends throughout the industry and country.”
Changes in NKBA and in Dettelbach’s Career
Since his term as president in 1994, Dettelbach has watched NKBA go through many changes and continue on a path of growth — growth of the number of chapters, growth of KBIS and growth of NKBA’s authority within the kitchen and bath industry. “NKBA has now become the ‘go to’ source for information about the industry,” he noted, adding that the association’s reputation has grown globally, too.
In terms of how his career and personal life have changed post-NKBA presidency, Dettelbach said that he has been focusing on his own kitchen remodeling and installation business, SD Kitchens. “My business will be 53 years old this summer,” he said.
Dettelbach has also assumed leadership roles in various areas, including the Bath & Kitchen Business Group and his local synagogue. In addition, he’s president of the Baltimore, MD-based 5013c charity, Weekend Backpacks for Homeless Kids, that helps children who face food insecurity. In all these roles, Dettelbach said, the public speaking and leadership skills he learned through his involvement in NKBA are “being put to good use.”
The Future of the K&B Industry
When answering a question about the future of the kitchen and bath industry, Dettelbach first provided some context by looking to the past. “I was NKBA President from 1994 to 1995,” he said, “and in those nearly-30 years [since then], the U.S. has experienced multiple recessions and a pandemic. Yet, the kitchen and bath industry always rebounds. Consumers who hibernated during the pandemic must have been dreaming of new kitchens and baths, since the industry is booming.”
Dettelbach went on to say that when he sees NKBA’s Thirty Under 30 class every year, along with their skills, he feels optimistic about the future of the industry.
Advice From the Past President
At the end of the interview, Dettelbach shared the best advice he received during his K&B career: “Have fun.” He also said it was important for designers to understand that they played the role of “agents of change” who made improvements in the lives of their clients.